Creative Destruction in Wireless Hardware–Ultra-Fast New Antenna Could Change Cellular Networks

New high-speed wireless antenna can run eight iPhones playing streaming video at once.  It’s like having your own E-Z Pass lane for wireless data regardless of where you are or how crowded the wireless network is.

The supporters of a new wireless transmission system are comparing it to the change from tubes to transistors in electronics but now in wireless. The Artemis pCell or pWave antenna (p is for  personal), to be announced today, attempts to solve the problem of a crowded network where thousands and millions of mobile devices are competing over the same wireless airwaves where calls are dropped or transmission is interrupted.

Why is the groundbreaking or game changing?

As the number of mobile devices climbs and with that users’ appetite for more and faster video streaming on bigger, sharper screens, the regular cellular networks are becoming overloaded.  Since 2012, the average mobile phone user has doubled the amount of gigabytes consumed.  To deal with the problem, wireless providers like Verizon are building more antennas, forming smaller wireless cells with stronger coverage, and rolling out service on new segments of the spectrum, like building more lanes across the Ben Franklin or the Walt Whitman Bridges.

That’s great until those lanes become crowded and so everyone has to slow down or a parking lot owner, looking to accommodate more car, makes the parking spaces narrower and closer together.

The new pCell transmission is built on the assumption that everyone gets their own  E-Z Pass lane.  How? The developer, Steve Perlman, formerly of Apple and of other cloud-based start-ups he founded, has his Artemis Networks technology embracing the interference caused by nearby antennas rather than avoiding it.  Data centers connected to the antennas create a mathematical calculation that creates a unique wireless signal for each network user, hence the subscript “p” for personal.

Will it work? Mr. Perlman and his team got the technology to work seamlessly on eight iPhones playing streaming video at once.  He will do the same for the public at Columbia University on Wednesday, February 19th.

Why is this an example of creative destruction?  Two reasons.  One, it addresses the growing demand for ultra-fast networks and the requisite huge data appetites mobile devices, particularly those using videos and other high-speed data apps, need.  And second, its cost of implementation for a newcomer to the wireless business is much lower because of pCell’s greater flexibility regarding antenna production and location than traditional wireless network providers need.

Here comes everybody, as Clay Shirky would say.

For more detail, see Nick Wingfield’s excellent reporting in the NY Times:

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